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Performing (heterosexual) femininity: female agency and role in sexual life and contraceptive use - a qualitative study in Australia


Kelly, M and Inoue, K and Barratt, A and Bateson, D and Rutherford, A and Richters, J, Performing (heterosexual) femininity: female agency and role in sexual life and contraceptive use - a qualitative study in Australia, Culture, Health and Sexuality, 19, (2) pp. 240-255. ISSN 1369-1058 (2017) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

DOI: doi:10.1080/13691058.2016.1214872


Women's liberation and the sexual revolution have changed the social landscape for heterosexual women in the West over the past 50 years, but exploration of women's lived experiences of contraceptive use in the context of their sexual lives is comparatively recent. We conducted 94 in-depth open-ended interviews with women of reproductive age (16-49 years) living in New South Wales, Australia. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using an inductive thematic approach. Four major themes are explored here: (1) what women do and do not do: unspoken gendered assumptions; (2) focus on partner's pleasure; (3) juggling responsibilities: sex as a chore; and (4) women's sexual motivations. Findings suggest sexual double standards and gender expectations continue to pervade women's sexual and contraceptive practices. We found that women performed their femininity by focusing on enabling their male partner's pleasure, while simultaneously ignoring their own sexual desires, wishes or interests. Accompanying new-found freedoms are new-found responsibilities, as women now add managing modern contraceptives and a good sex life to their list of tasks alongside paid employment, domestic labour and childrearing. Our research findings suggest that women may derive different pleasures from sex, including what we term 'connection pleasure'.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:contraception, femininity, qualitative, Australia, Female sexuality, gender, heterosexuality, intimacy, sexual practice
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Health services and systems
Research Field:Health services and systems not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Inoue, K (Dr Kumiyo Inoue)
ID Code:111706
Year Published:2017 (online first 2016)
Web of Science® Times Cited:8
Deposited By:Health Sciences
Deposited On:2016-09-30
Last Modified:2018-07-12

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